I’ve been knitting all my life and have acquired many knitting books along the way. My latest buy is Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas. This wonderful book is a step by step introduction to knitting and designing lace. Of special interest is the use of Muskox yarn. So, after purchasing some from Windy Valley Muskox Yarn I set about learning how to use this wondrous fiber to create a lace shawl.
Reading this book – and Donna’s blog – is an insight into a world of lace makers in Alaska – a place few of us will ever venture to. You learn about the Yupik and Inupiat people, their villages and the muskox. I learned about how each village and town has its own lace pattern that is incorporated into the garments and about the Oomingmak Co-op that helps to promote traditional lacework using muskox yarn.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the muskox, it is an animal found in the Arctic Circle. The fiber that is gathered from the animal is called qiviut. Gathered is the right word because the wool from the muskox is not sheered, like the wool from sheep; rather, qiviut is brushed off the animal when it naturally sheds its coat. Qiviut is one of the warmest, lightest and softest of fibers you can work with; it’s the downy-soft underside wool from the musk ox – oomingmak – umimmak in Greenlandic. Because of its rarity and the way the wool is harvested, qiviut is very expensive.
I bought my qiviut from Windy Valley Muskox Yarn. It was a 100% pure qiviut yarn; the color is called Alaska Spruce. It’s a 1 oz lace weight and you get about 218 yards per ball. I choose pure qiviut but you can also get qiviut/merino/silk and qiviut/silk blends in gorgeous colors from Windy Valley Muskox Yarn. If you’ve never worked with qiviut before you should be aware that it lacks the elasticity of wool, so it drapes beautifully for shawls and scarves but isn’t ideal for sweaters and such like. And, it doesn’t have the lustrous look of merino wool. With the qiviut/wool blends you get a yarn that holds its shape, feels incredibly soft and has a luxurious look to it. Also, qiviut blooms after it’s been washed; you get a fuzzy halo that resembles mohair but is much softer.
The Arctic Lace book is a great teaching aid – even if you’ve never done lace work before or don’t intend to use qiviut. As well as teaching the reader about the muskox, the people who work the fiber, the Oomingmak Co-op, you also can follow a list of projects. For my project I chose the ‘Arctic Diamond Stole’. I made 8 repeats and after blocking it turned out quite large but light as a feather. It hangs around my shoulders a treat with a softness that has to be felt to be believed. Someone I know said that my qiviut shawl feels like putting your hands into a cloud. I think that’s the best way to describe how it feels.
I’ve really enjoyed reading the Arctic Lace book and working with qiviut yarn. I’ve put the book down for now but know I’ll soon return to begin another project – making lace gloves – and I already know which yarn I’ll be using from Windy Valley Muskox Yarn; the Qiviut Royal Blend – 50/50 blend of qiviut and mulberry silk handspun in Peru – pure indulgence but you only live once.